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Sally Bellerose reflects on a vegetarian/nonvegetarian dynamic at the family dinner table. A prose poem.

No religion, no politics, no sex at the supper table. Mother does the cooking. Mother makes the rules.

My father invites me and my lover to dinner. Last time we ate dinner at my parents house my father implied that my lover was not a lesbian because of the way she devoured a drumstick. IÕm a vegetarian. My father believes that all lesbians are vegetarians. My lover was invited tonight. She declined.

My mother cooks a stew, calls it vegetarian stew even though it has two inch chunks of beef in it. I eat my mothers' stew even though I call myself a vegetarian. My mother assures me that the meat she buys is so lean that there's not a chance in hell that one fat globule could melt into the gravy. I don't tell her it's blood, not fat, that alarms me. She picks out the meat with plastic pickle tongs that she got free at a tupperware party, before passing me a plateful. She discards my meat on my fathers' plate.

"Who ever heard of broccoli in stew?" my father says, picking out the little green trees and piling them on my plate. I eat the top off a tiny one, after smelling it. I want to ask my parents if they think the broccoli smells like meat but I'm afraid that might lead to breaking Mother's rules.

I get pumpernickel bread out of the freezer and nuke it in the microwave for thirty seconds so we can sop up the nonfat gravy. When I sit back down my mother is trading green beans for pearl onions with my father.

"Anybody want to trade gravy?" I ask.

My father says, "No thank you I don't eat vegetarian gravy."

"This isn't vegetarian gravy, it's brown," I say.

"Alright, I don't eat a vegetarians' gravy," My father says.

Mother says, "Vegetarian gravy can be brown. You just add a little worstershire and a little gravymaster."

Father takes a spoonful of gravy from my bowl, tastes it, shakes his head. Says, "No protein. You got unnatural gravy."

I take the spoon out of his hand and have a taste of his gravy. "Hormones," I say, "Antibiotics. Pesticides."

We must be talking about religion, politics, or sex , because Mother is pissed. She gives us both a disgusted look and takes her plate in to the den.

I follow her. "Ma do you like the smell of broccoli?" I ask, contrite, by way of polite conversation.

"Ask me after I finish my meal," she says.

Father comes in with a second plate of meat laden stew.

Mother gives us both a warning glance. "Put on 'Wheel of Fortune," she says.

My father and I sit on the couch, on opposite sides of my mother. We finish our stew and watch Vanna turn letters. We behave during 'Wheel of Fortune'. Jeopardy is a different story, but the meal is over by then.

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